We 'should have known' about Washburn principal, Mpls. schools official says

Patrick Exner
Patrick Exner was hired as principal at Minneapolis' Washburn High School, but last week was removed after news broke of Exner being investigated for tampering with student test scores in a previous job.
Photo courtesy Ubah Medical Academy

Minneapolis schools need to get better at vetting job candidates, the district's chief executive said Tuesday.

District officials should have caught the fact that Patrick Exner was being investigated for tampering with student test scores in a previous job before naming him principal of Washburn High School, CEO Michael Goar told MPR's The Daily Circuit.

Exner was removed last week from the Washburn principal's position.

Goar said he couldn't say whether Exner was guilty or innocent of the test-tampering allegations.

"We should have discovered this information before an anonymous tip or state or prior employer telling us otherwise. We as a school district should have known and should have asked the right set of questions and vetted correctly for us to know that there was in fact an allegation," Goar said. "The allegation came out after the fact."

The hiring flap was the latest controversy at Washburn High School. Officials reassigned Principal Carol Markham-Cousins after several high profile incidents, including the hanging of a dark-skinned doll by several students and a student walkout over a school personnel matter.

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson will hold a public meeting for the Washburn High School community on Thursday evening. Washburn assistant principal, Linda Conley, will serve as the school's interim principal for the 2013-14 school year while the district searches for a permanent replacement, Goar said.

"We want to make sure that as leadership in the Minneapolis school system, we do a better job of serving our community," Goar said. "We want to make sure that we have an opportunity to have honest conversation with our community partners, have a dialogue and try to heal."

Goar said district officials have vowed to do a better job with this next search.

"We have room to improve," he said. "We are reviewing all aspects of our procedures and our operations in terms of the process we use."

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